In the late 70's, I was introduced to the wonderful world of roller skating.
I was about 8 at the time and have very fond memories of those days. Disco was still quite hot, so plenty of that music was played at the rink. Of course, there was a disco ball in the center of the rink as well as lots of groovy lights. I don't recall it taking me too long to learn how to skate. The name of the skating center was called the High Roller.
It was located on the west side of Winona. Many times we would eat at Happy Joe's (as discussed in a prior post) and then head right next door to the rink. My strongest memories are from '83-'84. My mom would pay for us kids and then we would be buzzed in. We all went up to the counter and told an employee what our shoe sizes were. We then sat down at one of the tables and strung 'em up. Many serious skaters had their very own pair. It was fabulous getting on the floor and getting my groove on when they were playing one of my favorite songs ("Jam On It", "Let's Go Crazy", "I Feel for You"). A lot of the kids loved it when they played "Summer Nights" from the Grease soundtrack. There were several games that were played on the rink throughout the night. One was limbo.
Another was a dice game in which music would be played for a couple minutes, then when the music stopped, the skaters would have to stop at the closest of four corners on the rink. A huge frickin' dice was rolled on the rink and only the people at that numbered corner could continue the game. This was done over and over until there were only about 3 people left. Those 3 went up to the DJ and got some type of prize for winning.
The DJ was totally "the shit" at the rink. He played the best tunes. He worked the light show and his booth was high above all us peons. Sometimes the DJ would announce that the next dance was to be a "couples only" one. I always hoped that one day I could be like the guys on the floor, able to skate backward with a girl on their arms with no fear.
There was a small contingent of breakdancers (remember, it was 1984) who went to the rink to strut their stuff. They had a special place in the corner of the facility. My brother, Matt, only 7 at the time, was quite a prodigy. He had black parachute pants and was a master at doing the caterpillar.
From time to time, I would play video games at the center. My favorite one there was "Elevator Action".
One could develop quite a thirst, so there were many times when I went to the snack bar and bought a Coke from the fine-looking woman who worked there. Going to the bathroom could be a bit of a challenge. The restrooms had tiles in them (not carpeting). If you lost your balance at the urinal, well, it wasn't pretty.
I did like to skate quite fast from time to time, but you had to be careful. There would usually be a few collisions every night. It was always sad when 10 o'clock rolled around. Time to change back into my tennis shoes and turn in the skates, but by that time, I was usually quite tired and ready to head back to the crib.
The rink in Winona closed around 1985 and we were left without the joys that could only be found on the hard floor. Breakdancing faded away and I grew up. But, thankfully, I would one day return. LaCrosse, a city about 30 miles from Winona, continued to operate a skating rink. I was finally able to go back in the early '00's. Incredibly, this High Roller looked exactly like the one in Winona (not a huge surprise since they did have the same name). If it weren't for the music, you could swear it was 1984 once more. I got on my skates and it only took a few minutes to "remember" how to skate. I had quite a good time.
I've been back there several times in the last few years, most notably with Shanon last year. He hadn't been skating in years and was excited to get back on the horse. We went there in the early evening on a Saturday and put our skates on. I brought my camcorder so that I would have a permanent record of this magical place. I waited for Shanon to get out there, so I could tape his first few steps. There were mostly kids out there. The song playing was, "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy". Shanon was tentative at first, going quite slowly. He fell down almost immediately, but got right back up. He went a few more yards, then fell again.
Now, I've always prided myself on being steady with the camera. You know how sometimes when you're watching "America's Stupidest Home Videos", you watch something funny happen and the person with the camera taping it starts shaking the camera uncontrollably after he sees something funny that he has just taped? I wasn't like that. If an explosion happened in front of me, I would keep the camera perfectly steady so that future viewers of my tape would admire my skills. But when Shanon fell for the 3rd time in 45 seconds and his cell phone fell out of his pocket, I was laughing so hard that the camera shook a bit. Oh, well. Nobody's perfect.
An employee came out and asked if he was alright. He stopped and told him that he hadn't skated in quite a while. A minute later, he exited the rink. He had some blood on his hand from one of the falls he took and went into the bathroom to wash it off. He didn't have the balls to return to the rink. He called his brother and changed back into his tennis shoes. I skated for a good hour while he watched and had a bite to eat. On the ride home, Shanon said that he wished we had gone bowling instead.